Psychological science has arrived in courtrooms across the country, analyzing behavioral phenomena from eyewitness testimony, to the invalidity of polygraphs, to pretrial publicity. Attention to the psychology of witnesses, defendants, jurors, and even judges fits well with legal scholarship’s growing emphasis on behavioral realism.
The authors come to this enterprise as psychological scientists with experience in courtroom testimony and related scholarship. The first author testified in Hopkins v. Price Waterhouse, the first case to use social science research on prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination in a Title VII sex discrimination suit. The Hopkins testimony described some relevant, established social science that was potentially useful for the factfinder to understand the thinking of the defendants in the case. The testimony was unchallenged at the time and later cited by the Supreme Court on appeal. A few subsequent roles as expert in gender discrimination cases followed. The second author testified in Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co. and has consulted on both class action and single-plaintiff sex, motherhood, and pregnancy discrimination cases.
Both authors have contributed empirically and conceptually to the relevant scientific evidence base. From organizational, social, cognitive, and neuroscience perspectives, this Essay briefly discusses legitimacy criteria, quality control, and various controversies as they pertain to the application of psychological science in the employment discrimination context.